By Neil H. Dempsey
---- — Just a month after Richard Tisei skipped the state Republican convention to protest his party’s anti-gay marriage stance, he’s found an unlikely fundraising partner: Frank Guinta, a New Hampshire politician with links to the Tea Party who himself opposes gay marriage.
Tisei has consistently portrayed himself as a moderate Republican in his campaign for the 6th District seat currently held by Democrat John Tierney, to whom he narrowly lost the same seat in 2012. Himself gay and married, Tisei has also repeatedly said that he thinks the Republican Party ought to abandon some of its longstanding social conservatism.
But Tisei stands to benefit from a newly formed joint fundraising committee called the New England Majority Fund, and the fund’s only other beneficiary is Guinta, a Manchester Republican with a history of opposing not only gay marriage but abortion, another issue on which Tisei differs from many of those in his own party.
Although it’s by no means unusual for candidates of the same party to pair up for fundraising ventures, the move is also notable because Guinta has previously aligned himself with the Tea Party — and because Guinta himself is running against Dan Innis, a gay and married Republican, in the primary.
Tisei said Thursday that the issue boiled down to convenience.
“There are individuals who know both Frank and myself, who want to have an event for the both of us,” he said. “Establishing a joint fundraising committee for the event is the cleanest way to do it, logistically.”
Plans for the joint fundraising event haven’t been hashed out yet, but Tisei said it could take place in the next few months. Establishing the committee will allow donors to write a single check to be shared equally among the two candidates, instead of having to write two checks.
Tisei pointed out that he shares another joint fundraising committee — the Equality Leadership Fund —with Carl DeMaio, a gay Republican from San Diego. He said his teaming with Guinta reflected his intention to work with “as many different people as I can,” and fit his overall message of inclusiveness.
“I’m not going to have a litmus test and say ... the only people who I can work with are the people who agree with me on every single issue,” he said. “The problem with Washington D.C. right now is that people aren’t willing to work with people who they don’t see eye to eye with.”
Fundraising itself is a hot issue with Tisei right now. Whereas he led the pack of candidates seeking Tierney’s seat in numbers for the final quarter of 2013, he slid to a distant third place last quarter, during which even Democrat Seth Moulton, ostensibly a longshot contender, outraised him by more than 55 percent.
Democrats were quick to pounce on Tisei for teaming up with Guinta this week, including Tierney, who faulted him for joining forces with an “anti-equality, anti-choice Tea Partier in an effort to raise national Republican money for his campaign.”
“It’s a little over six months until election day and Richard is already selling out to the most extreme wing of the Republican Party,” Tierney said in a statement.
In explaining his decision to skip the convention in Boston last month, Tisei told The Salem News that he opposed the state party’s recently-approved anti-gay marriage platform, and thought the party itself had to alter its stances in order to attract more voters.
“I think that that the party is taking us in a direction backwards rather than going forward, by including language in the platform that limits people’s freedoms,” he said. “My philosophy is the government should get off your back, out of your wallet and out of your bedroom.”
Both Tisei and Innis have been endorsed by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a non-party committee supporting “qualified, committed openly LGBT candidates who can win at the ballot box,” according to its website.